In last night’s play session I had something come up I wasn’t quite prepared for: narrating an enemy that was…

In last night’s play session I had something come up I wasn’t quite prepared for: narrating an enemy that was…

In last night’s play session I had something come up I wasn’t quite prepared for: narrating an enemy that was skilled enough to act defensively against spell casters. My initial take was that a skilled opponent would try and anticipate when an incantation was ending and move just prior to the spell being completed, so as to take cover or avoid the brunt of it.

Fiction-wise I’m satisfied with that, but mechanically I wasn’t sure how it would work out. For regular attacks, fighting a skilled opponent might not even trigger the Hack n’ Slash move, but spellcasting is different, as the move is to determine if the player successfully casts the spell. However, it seemed almost too much of a penalty to have a player roll to see if they successfully cast, only to then say that the opponent anticipates their casting and doges. On the other hand, having spellcasters basically never have to fictionally position themselves against a skilled opponent seems unfair for all other classes (e.g. melee) that have to do so. (Note: I’m excluding situations like “you can’t see the enemy”, or “you are in a dangerous position when casting”, etc, and focusing mainly on a spellcaster who is in a safe position with a clear (at the moment) line of sight, but is facing a cunning/skilled/?? opponent.)


22 thoughts on “In last night’s play session I had something come up I wasn’t quite prepared for: narrating an enemy that was…”

  1. When they first cast the spell, describe the enemy dodging the spell (if that is possible in your fiction) and then ask the Wizard how they want to deal with it.

    There is no hard and fast rule to this. They will describe their reaction and trigger new moves from there.

  2. I would tell the Wizard plainly that this enemy can dodge or resist magic before they cast their spell, to give them the option to do something different or aim at another enemy if there is one. Then if they still want to, which they likely will, I’d just mangle the Volley move like so:

    Arcane Volley Against a Dodgy Sod

    When you take aim at an enemy who understands the ways of magic, roll+Dex. On a 10+, you have a clear shot. On a 7–9, choose one:

    – You have to move to get the shot, placing you in danger as described by the GM

    – You have to take what you can get, when you cast the spell: -1d4 damage

    – You have to take several shots, you will forget the spell. If you roll 7-9 when you cast the spell, you cannot choose to forget it from the list of drawbacks.

    On a 6-, you will miss the enemy, at best you’ll force them to fall back or leave them open to another attack.

    Now roll to cast your spell.

  3. Rolling to see if you can roll is generally uncool. It basically boils down to just taking a -2 to the roll you intended to make in the first place.

    I’m thinking that making cast a spell work a little more like volley is a good idea though.

    But in general you should give a player a -1 forward and say the enemy has defenses or is dodgy.

  4. Eh, I’d do it just for a one off encounter. It makes the Wizard aim and perhaps move, which is nice in the fiction stuff.

    After all, haven’t you ever had someone Defy Danger to get close enough to hit something, like say, a giant with a spear?

  5. Totally, my issue with roll so you can roll is that it is redundant. Not to say a person couldn’t trigger a move and then trigger another, but they should separate and complimentary actions.

    To look at your example, why not have them defy danger +int to position or predict where an enemy will be, a miss meaning they can’t even take a shot. and then cast a spell like normal, a. miss is a miss, no need to add more miss conditions.

  6. Of course the same effect can be gained with one roll just by offering them a hard bargain or choice and letting the player decide from there.

  7. Or, I wonder if it would be better just to put down a solid monster move. Like, “Avoids magic spells unless cornered or caught unawares”.

    You describe the scene, “the _ looks upon you with a smile and sinister gleam in its eye. It matches your chanting with it’s own, and you’re sure your spells won’t harm it.”

    Then you go on to explain that you might be able to trick it with a subtler spell, use a spell to effect the area it is standing in (set something on fire with a fireball) or perhaps you’d simply be better off flinging spells elsewhere and helping to better position your allies so that they might kill it. After all, thats why you keep them around!

  8. I understand the need to avoid rolling to see if you can roll, but I feel like that is exactly comes up sometimes with melee classes. If I have to Defy Danger of the enemy’s skillful defense in order to find an opening, I’m essentially rolling to see if I can then roll my Hack n’ Slash. Additionally, Defy Danger makes sense because they are acting despite the fact there is an imminent danger (the enemy is skillful and is trying to kill you). In the example I cited, any sort of Defy Danger doesn’t make sense because the caster isn’t really facing an immediate danger…he’s just facing an opponent that can anticipate and avoid his attacks unless distracted.

    I think my biggest hangup is that spellcasting has an inherent risk, e.g. the spell might go wrong, or horribly wrong. This affect is completely independent of the fact that my enemy can deal with what I cast, if I manage to successfully do so. In my mind, simply saying “well, he’s dodgy, so you will miss if you try to cast” eliminates the risk of the spell casting altogether. I want to somehow capture that there are two separate dangers: the risk of casting in the first place and the risk of missing or the spell being useless against the opponent.

    (While I’m thinking of it, this could apply to Volley as well. I may be able to take the shot, but the opponent could be in a position of dodging or negating my shot. There is still a risk of using ammo, or having to move into a bad spot to take the shot, but this is independent of the enemy’s ability to counter/deal with my attack.)

  9. Ok, well Defy Danger is supposed to be the move you roll when nothing else fits as well.

    It’s not just about danger in combat. There’s all kinds of things that count as Danger for the purpose of the move.

    Trying to save face when being insulted? +CHA

    Trying to figure out the puzzle before the room fills with gas? +INT

    Trying to decipher the dead language of this scroll? +INT

    Trying to spot the assassin lurking in the shadows? +WIS

    Trying to spot a friend in a crowded tavern? also +WIS

    Defy Danger is kind of a multi-use solution to things.

  10. I think the most common thing is, when you miss on a roll, the GM can describe it as the enemy dodging if that suits the fiction, or as you literally missing the target.

    But in this particular case I think I’ve solved it with the obvious: Defy Danger, with Int. There is a danger, the danger is your spell won’t work, and this thing wants to hurt you! For a Wizard, that must be the most dangerous thing!

    You just have to describe it correctly:

    “Listen, this guy knows how you’re casting, he’s seen your type before, maybe even knows your school of magic. You’re going to need to alter your rhythm, perhaps hold that spell within yourself for just a second longer than usual before you cast it or speed up your chanting and get wild, roll+Int to Defy Danger.”

    On a 10+, from now on the enemy can’t dodge your spells, unless you roll poorly.

    On a 7-9, your spells are going to hit the enemy, but their effect will be lessened.

    On a 6-, you can’t change your casting timing, it’s too deeply ingrained.

  11. I know some people will hate this, but I think it is totally legit.

    When you cast a spell at the Mindflayer(or whetever) always treat 10+ as 7-9. (Or take -1or whatever)


    Instinct: To devour magic.

    •Deflect spells back at the caster.


    Tag: Immune to x magic. (Where x is whatever you want to make it)

  12. Wynand Louw, nah I think those are good ways to do it.

    One of my earliest monsters absorbed magic, and I used that exact same move. More chance to forget it and such, because the monster was eating the spell!

    I would say a monster move is the best way to do it, though I keep changing my mind.

  13. I’d write it up as a monster move. Its basically revealing an unwanted truth. Also, don’t forget you can target other PCs on a miss, or all of them when handed a golden opportunity.

  14. yeah, what if a magic missile rebounds off a shield and instead of one enemy taking ~8 damage, suddenly each player is taking 1.

  15. You know, I’m sure the best way is a monster move, but in the spirit of needlessly complicating things, what about mangling the Cast a Spell move, rather than the Volley move?

    Cast a Spell Redux

    When you release a spell you’ve prepared against that clever thing, roll+Int.

    ✴ On a 10+, the spell is successfully cast and you do not forget the spell–you may cast it again later.

    ✴ On a 7-9, the spell is cast, but choose one:

    – The thing deftly dodges your spell and moves to an advantageous position.

    – The thing takes only half the spell’s effect or damage, and you do too, as it bounces back.

    – You forget the spell and take -1 ongoing to cast a spell at the thing.

  16. Thanks guys! This is some good material.

    One thing I didn’t mention is the player in this particular case the player was using the Mage class, which gave him insane bonuses to his rolls for casting spells, making it less likely for him to miss (and, even a partial success still lets him deal a lot of damage potentially). And, he doesn’t forget spells either. Trying to ramp up the challenge and keept it plausible was tough, especially since he was in a defensive position behind both a Figher and a Paladin. I wanted to try and encourage the players to think about how they would engage this skilled enemy and work together to distract and attack, but they pretty much wanted to bunker and cast. I ended up telling the Mage “you don’t roll, but your spell misses as the enemy doges out of the way just as you finish casting”.

    It kinda worked, as it did get them to do something else, but I didn’t like that I essentially gave the Mage a “free” spell cast. Yeah it didn’t do anything useful, but it didn’t present any risk either.

    Side question: Would you ever present a situation to players where you let them roll, but even on a 10+ have it accomplish little to nothing? Something like this:

    Archer: “I line up a shot at the spell caster and let my arrow fly!”

    GM: “It seems like the caster has some sort of protective aura around him…your arrow may not have any effect.”

    Archer: “I don’t care…I need to see what I can do to this guy.”

    GM: “OK, roll for it!”

    Archer: “11!”

    GM: “Your arrow flies straight and true, but bounces uselessly away when it gets within a few feet of the wizard. It seems he has some sort of defensive barrier.”

  17. Ian Oberst, seems ok, especially if you let them know ahead of time. Say what honesty (or your prep) demands. Actually if there’s no chance of success I’d not make them roll at all, probably, but I suppose technically they are triggering the move on their side and there’s a chance of bad effects.

    This is probably how I’d handle the dodgy wizard. You can see he’s ready for the spell, still want to cast it? Ok, he dodges out of the way/casts a counterspell. You’re going to have to surprise him or team up somehow to get him. What do you do?

  18. Sorry, forgot whoever mentioned the defy danger to hack and slash. The way I’d sometimes do it is roll defy danger and then roll hack and slash.

    They are defying to see if they can engage without being harmed. Even if they fail their defy danger, they should still get the chance to strike the opponent. They might have to take damage twice.. but combat is a brutal thing.

    Another thing for the spell casters is that you can offer an opportunity with or without a cost as well as tell them the requirements.

    For example:

    – Your magic missile seems to be absorbed by the monster. The ceiling seems to be structurally weak, if you hit it with your magic missile..

    Or you’ll need to get the right angle for the spell; unfortunately the monster is in your way..

    – Your arcane enemy is performing counter spell after counter spell. In order to hit him, he’ll need to be distracted. Perhaps by one of your companions?

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